When I first started Writing Professionally (that is to say: being published for free), I worked for a local magazine called INSite Atlanta where I took whatever job they gave me. I wrote the “Hot or Not” column for a while and then graduated to celebrity interviews which was cool because I got to attend my first junket.
(A junket is what they call locking journalists in a room for 7 hours, while actors, directors, and producers you’re supposed to interview reluctantly give you 15-30 minutes of their time.)
When you can’t afford to send a journalist to a junket, you get a recording of someone else’s junket interview which is how I became the recipient of an interview someone else had done with Keira Knightley
(I’d gotten to interview Richard Gere, Elijah Wood, and T-Swift’s Ex’s Mom, directly, tyvvm).
The interview was a transcription.
And it was BAD.
Because how we speak is impossible to read.
Here is how we speak:
“I mean, no, um, so, Jennifer, who – yeah – she’s the – right. So, she then went to uhh the whatsthenameofit Bulger! So she goes there and she’s like oh no this cannot. She was devastated but you know that’s uh that’s how – right – like – she knew it was gonna — you know like when you tie your shoe and….”
Here’s how you’d edit that:
“Jennifer went to The Bulger. She was shocked and upset.”
If you wanted to keep the integrity of the ramble, you could do this:
“Jennifer went to the – what’s the name of it? Bulger! She goes [to The Bulger] and says, ‘Oh no, this cannot.’ She was devastated.”
The way we speak is not easier to read.
Which is why it’s odd that most copywriting advice suggests you “write as you speak.” Except I give this advice too and I think you should take it and I’ll tell you why.
When I tell students, “write as you speak” – almost NO ONE does.
What they do (and this is the magic) is release themselves from the rules of grammar.
Most of us who claim we “can’t write,” absolutely can write. You text your friends, you email your colleagues, and you caption your thirst traps on TikTok. You write fine.
And, I imagine, effectively. Your colleagues know what time the meeting starts, your friends understand why you hate the Bachelor this season, and your TikTok audience has no trouble engaging with the text you put over your videos.
Where we struggle is applying this skill you already have to more formal settings, like sales. The second you sit down to write a sales page or ad or blog post, you get – I believe this is the medical term – WEIRD.
Uptight. Rigid. Overly-chipper. Consumed with what people who don’t matter might think of you (“I don’t want to be annoying!”).
You had no problem not-being-annoying when you texted Meghan. Bring that energy to your copy.
Write as you speak.
In other words:
Stop thinking about writing correctly and start writing casually.
Write like you’re texting Meghan or writing an email to your favorite coworker who totally gets your reference to what happened last week in Seattle when John did (you know what he did – the entire 4th floor of the Marriott knows what he did).
Grant yourself permission to write free of the gaze of your 9th-grade English teacher.
Copywriting is where we write effectively.
But not always correctly.
Learn more here.
PS: Today is the last day to sign up for The Copy Workshop.
Class begins Sept 19th and we’ve got a few spots left.
Hear what former students had to say about the workshop here.
We will not be running The Copy Workshop again. This is your last chance to take The Copy Workshop as an Akimbo workshop (Akimbo is only running altMBA from now on).
Don’t miss it. Akimbo invented a life-changing approach to online learning.